Overall, our research covers a wide scope of topics including chemistry, condensed matter physics, nanotechnology and bioengineering to reveal the underlying organization and design rules for active soft matter at the frontiers of materials science. Hope to see the most up-to-date progress of our research? Come and join our weekly group meetings starting from 1:00 pm every Wednesday at Room 202 at MRL! See the group meeting schedule here.
Advanced mesoscopic assembly
Intensive research efforts are devoted into studies of individual materials system for applications in solar power conversion and catalysis (dyes, macromolecules, nanocrystals, colloids, etc.); still little is known about their collective behaviors. We study how to bridge gaps of both structure and functionality of materials components across scales, and how they can assemble into a coherent materials from. One of our strategies is to encode dynamic and orthogonal interactions into the building blocks in a spatially “patchy” fashion. These modular attractions can glue building blocks one level at a time, thereby building hierarchy into the assemblies. In the colloid context, their hierarchical organization will serve as a good platform for further observations of emergent information/matter transductions among different levels of structures. By mimicking multiple orders in living organization, we aim to push the boundary of how alive a nonliving system can be: from hierarchical in structure to hierarchical in energy harvesting, information transduction and functionalities; from dynamic to evolvable and reproducible; from multitasking to artificially intelligent.
New tools for mesoscopic imaging
The conventional rule of thumb for imaging is that one has to choose between spatial and temporal resolution, even for the state-of-art super-resolution optical microscopy. We, however, exploit a novel liquid phase transmission electron microscopy (TEM) to achieve unprecedented high spatial and temporal resolution, both at the same time. Such technique can hold liquid sample to observe solution phase dynamics at nm (or even higher) resolution against high vacuum, and immediately resolve the structural transformation and ensemble dynamics of materials such as nanocatalysts and nanodevices. The ultimate goal is to see bio-relevant dynamics and correlate such high resolution TEM imaging with optical microscopy, to see and understand, for example, the structural transformation dynamics of proteins on the nanoscale and their corresponding motions trajectories in their native environment.